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International Workshop on the Challenges the EU is Currently Facing

Sarah Seeger's contribution in Budapest

04.11.2008 · Forschungsgruppe Europa

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Against the background of the Irish "No" on the Treaty of Lisbon and the global financial and economic crisis an international workshop was held in Budapest on October 30/31, 2008, which brought together EU experts from various fields of research. The workshop covered a wide range of topics and aimed at identifying possible solutions for the current challenges the European Union is facing. It was organized by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and was chaired by Professor Attila Ágh of the Corvinus University of Budapest.

Sarah Seeger, research fellow at the Center for Applied Policy Research (C·A·P), elaborated on the Treaty of Lisbon's ratification status in Germany. Together with the Czech Republic, Ireland, Poland, and Sweden, Germany has not formally completed ratification of the new EU treaty, even though it had been approved by a large majority in both the Bundestag and the Bundesrat this spring. After the votes were cast, both Peter Gauweiler (CSU) and members from the party "Die Linke" called upon the Federal Constitutional Court to assess the constitutionality of the new EU treaty. Moreover, the small party ÖDP, which is not represented in the Bundestag, also put forward a complaint on the Treaty of Lisbon. As in the case of the Constitutional Treaty in 2005, Federal President Horst Köhler initially did not sign the ratification bill, as he had received a request from the Federal Constitutional Court to wait until the ruling on the Treaty of Lisbon (which is expected for the beginning of 2009) is finalized.

The Federal Constitutional Court has been playing a significant role in the history of German EU politics. When the Treaty of Maastricht was ratified in 1993, the Court had to assess the relationship between European Union law and German law. As one of the most crucial conditions for ratifying the Treaty of Maastricht, the Constitutional Court demanded that the Bundestag be closely involved in EU politics and that core competences have to remain at the national level. Eventually, judges or former judges of the Court, such as Roman Herzog, Hans-Jürgen Papier or Udo di Fabio, have coined the German debate about EU politics and the future direction of European integration. In the focus is the question of how national sovereignty is affected by European integration. By giving their statements, the Federal Constitutional Court’s judges have proven their willingness to not only play a judicial role but also a political one, as their rather critical approach towards European integration has filled the vacuum stemming from a relative absence of a political debate about Germany’s role in the EU among political elites.

It can be expected that the Court will exert this role in the current situation once again. While it seems unrealistic that it will reject the Treaty of Lisbon it is likely that the Court will formulate general principles and conditions under which the further transfer of competences towards the European level should take place, as it has done before in its judgement on the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993. However, contrary to the situation in 2005, Federal President Horst Köhler finally decided to sign the Lisbon Treaty even without a verdict of the Federal Constitutional Court. Shortly before the EU October summit in Brussels, Köhler thus sent an important political message, both to the other countries which have not ratified the Treaty yet, and to the Federal Constitutional Court. Now the Court is faced with the clear statements of three constitutional institutions (Bundestag, Bundesrat, Federal President) which might put significant political pressure on it to come up with a positive verdict on the Treaty of Lisbon.

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